Spandex, cheesy music, tight coloured jeans, more spandex, comedy mispronunciation, dodgy presenting, a little more spandex and some controversial voting. This is the world of Eurobeat, a loving pastiche of all things Eurovision.
The Novello theatre was filled with a partisan crowd last night, all waving flags and clackers with an exuberance normally only associated with the consumption of far too many E-numbers. With so much to hold and wave, critics were left without a hand free to scribble their notes during the press performance.
Before the show proper begins, the audience is taught to dance to the phrase “I am Sarajevo, taste me!” If they metaphorically rolled Eurobeat around their mouths, I imagine the taste would be of a sweet cheese, unsubtle on the pallet, but which has been crafted to make it just that bold.
Eurobeat brings the fabulous kitschness of the Eurovision Song Contest to the stage with a glorious exuberance, knowingly sending up every style of song from the annual musical maelstrom. The boy band, Abba-esque pop group and folk entry are all here, alongside a typically under rehearsed UK entry, the unmistakably Irish-sounding Irish entry and an Icelandic performer not dissimilar to that country’s most famous export, Bjork.
Presiding over proceedings are two presenters with a typically strained relationship. Les Dennis plays Sergei, a children’s TV presenter with a wig that would make Bruce Forsyth blush, while Mel Giedroyc plays former pole-vaulter Boyka, giving a pouting, preening, show-stealing performance. Both performers have been one half of a double act, and the knowledge of being able to play off another half shines through on stage, which is hard to do in a sea of glitter and luminosity.
Writers Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson have clearly crafted the show out of love for Eurovision, for, though it parodies its allegedly more serious parent, it does so with warm affection… and without PC boundaries. Each of the countries taking part is openly mocked for its stereotypical attributes, but with tongues placed firmly in cheeks. There are, of course, also the hilarious mispronunciations of words by the foreign hosts, questionable lyrics with a not so subtle subtext and costumes that had me unsure of exactly where to look.
Eurobeat is billed as the first interactive musical because, when it comes to making your mind up about the winner, the audience votes via text message. Everyone selects a country to support when they enter the theatre and I was truly sad to see Russia pipped to the winning post by the last vote. But not for long; it would be hard to stay sad for long in the auditorium of the Novello theatre as being in the Eurobeat audience felt like being part of one very wide, very cheesy, very shiny grin.